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    Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    6.1 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    83 m
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    Directions to Trailhead

    The Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop is a 6.1 km hike through the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, which is known for its natural beauty and biodiversity. This 6.1 km moderately difficult trail meanders across the rivers and streams at the mouth of the Sabino Canyon. This hike is excellent for its ease of access from the city and for its diverse, beautiful terrain. You’ll hike next to towering saguaros and prickly pears, witness the area’s astounding bird population fly by, and dip your feet in the water as you go.

    This area can reach scorching temperatures in the middle of the day. Start your hike early, bring plenty of water, and avoid hiking this route in the summertime if at all possible.

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    Route Description for Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop

    The Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop is a great moderate hike in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area near Tucson. It’s conveniently accessible from the northeastern edge of the city near the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. The scenery is excellent and there’s an impressive array of plant and animal species to look for. This hike is a good pick if you want to enjoy the canyon area’s scenery but want to pass on the more strenuous trails that lead into the canyon.

    This area is known for its diversity of bird species, so birders and casual enthusiasts alike will want to keep their eyes on the sky. You can also appreciate the flora of the desert in all its glory.

    This hike requires several water crossings. If there’s been heavy rain or snowmelt recently, the water levels might be a bit too high for everyone’s comfort. Bring wading shoes no matter when you choose to hike, but should you visit and find the water too high, you can always come back another day or turn around early to avoid the crossings.

    This route can get very hot during the heat of the day, so start your hike early. Also, bring more water than you think you might need and wear sunscreen and a hat as you hike. We generally recommend avoiding hiking around Tucson in the summer months as it presents a risk of heatstroke.

    This route doesn’t allow dogs, so leave your pups at home. You’ll need to pay a small fee to access the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

    This loop can be done either way. We’ll describe it counterclockwise as we prefer the view this way, but feel free to try it both ways. From the trailhead, take Bear Canyon Trail #29 as it runs along E Remount Place. You can also take the trail directly north of Bear Canyon and then take a few steps down to Bear Canyon Trail where the route ends.

    Where Bear Canyon Trail splits, go left. Follow the Lower Sabino Service Road. You can dip down to check out Sabino Lake as you pass it. Cross Sabino Creek and then stay left. Take Creek Trail to where it splits, then stay left and cross the creek again.

    Walk a few steps south on N Upper Sabino Canyon Road and then go right onto Rattlesnake Trail. You’ll cross the creek several times before looping around to the left onto Esperero Trail. Follow this trail past a picnic area. Join N Upper Sabino Canyon Road, which will lead you back to the trailhead.

    Hiking Route Highlights

    Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

    The Sabino Canyon is a large canyon in the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Coronado National Forest. The Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is a popular destination for local hikers and adventurers anchored around this canyon, providing walking trails, hiking routes, and biking trails. The recreation area is known for its desert vegetation and a wide variety of bird species. It’s popular with local hikers and runners as well as visitors in the Tucson area.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is there a shuttle at the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area?

    Yes, there is a shuttle that runs from the visitor center, offering a narrated, educational 45-minute tour in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

    Can you drive through Sabino Canyon?

    Traveling through the canyon is only allowed on foot or horseback.

    Are there bears in Sabino Canyon?

    Bears and mountain lions live in the mountains near Sabino Canyon, but interactions with humans are rare.

    Insider Hints for Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop

    • There is an $8 day-use fee per vehicle or a $10 weekly fee for this hike.
    • A downloaded GPS track can be helpful for navigation on this loop.

    Getting to the Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop Trailhead

    The trailhead for the Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop is in the parking area for the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground


    • When to do


    • Pets allowed


    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


    • Route Type

      Out and back

    Sabino Lake, Creek Trail, and Rattlesnake Loop Elevation Graph

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